Secrets to Successful Mealtimes from a Chef

Let’s Chew and Chat

As a chef, I love food and savor the time I have with my family sitting around the dining room table. But, as a dad I understand mealtime can sometimes be a battle. Stay calm and talk to your child about why he or she might not like what’s on the plate. Ask questions to find out more about your child’s palate. Maybe it’s a texture issue, or the taste is too bitter. Ask your kids to provide a critique of their food when they take a bite.  Have them describe the flavor, in great detail, much like a Food Network host does. Maybe they’ll say things like, “It’s super tender, or a bit salty!” Have fun with it! Who knows, you may have a future Food Network star on your hands!

Try, Try Again

Unless allergies are involved, the entire family should try to share the same meal. Kids are very observant. My son Lorenzo, and I spend a lot of time together in the kitchen, and he constantly asks questions about new ingredients or what I’m preparing. From this curiosity, I’ve been able to encourage him to try a new flavor or food – even if it’s just a taste. However, if a child doesn’t respond favorably, don’t give up right away. Try again! After all, studies show that it can take kids multiple exposures to a certain food before their palates adjust. Lorenzo used to always give me hard about eating mixed green salad, but now he eats it all the time.

Be Honest, Don’t Hide It!

It’s true – honesty is the best policy! A lot of kids don’t like their fruits and veggies, but I believe hiding spinach in brownies or other sweet treats can be deceptive and backfire on you. Instead, be direct and use food to teach kids about new flavors and cuisines. For example, Juicy Juice has 16 100% juice flavor varieties. Make mealtime educational, and ask, “Where do Kiwis come from?” or “What color is Salmon?” Describe not only the taste, but fun facts about fruits and other new foods to curious minds. Remember, as parents and guardians, we must continue exposing them to new foods and flavors. Diverse diets are healthy diets, after all!

The More They Cook, They More They’ll Try

A guaranteed way to get kids to try new things is by getting them involved. It can be as easy as cracking eggs, pouring juice for a sauce or grating cheese on taco night. Lorenzo, we let him help us “fire ingredients in a pan.” If we’re having rib eye steak for dinner, he loves to help flip it in the pan or sauté the veggies. Once kids help create a dish, they establish a deeper connection to the food and will most definitely want to try what they’ve created.  

Here's a great recipe to try together: 

Sweet & Smoky BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders

By Jeff Mauro, Juicy Juice Flavor Expert


“Start with a flavor base you know your kids enjoy, and something you already have in your fridge. From there, mix it up and break out of kids’ comfort zones. If chicken is a weeknight staple, try pork. Play around with different spices and marinades to excite their palates!”

Makes 12 sliders


  • 3 pounds of boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 cups of Juicy Juice® 100% juice, tropical flavor (or Juicy Juice® 100%, apple juice flavor)
  • 1 cup of your favorite smoky barbeque sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of chipotle in adobo
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pack of Hawaiian slider buns (buttered and grilled in a non-stick pan)
  • Dill pickles
  • French fried onions


  • Season all sides of pork shoulder with garlic salt and black pepper.
  • In a slow cooker, mix together Juicy Juice® 100% juice, tropical flavor, barbecue sauce, chipotle in adobo and apple cider vinegar. Place seasoned pork in pot, cover and cook on low for six hours or until it is super tender. Using two forks, lightly shred the pork and mix with all the residual juices.  Season to taste if necessary.
  • Place pork on slider buns, top with a pickle and french fried onions.  Serve with your favorite barbecue sauce for dipping!

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Be a “Smoothie Operator”

Smoothies are a surefire way to get kids a well-balanced meal, especially for breakfast. Start with a base of ice in the blender—that’s what keeps it cold. Next, layer in your liquids, such as whole milk Greek yogurt, which provides the protein to keep kids feeling full. Then, you’ll pour in 100% Juicy Juice – that adds flavor and helps everything blend together. The fun part about making smoothies is that you can introduce kids to a ton of new flavors – mix and match or taste test a new one each week. Juicy Juice has 16 different varieties- including kid-favorites like Apple or unique flavor combinations like White Grape and Passion Dragonfruit. Last up, add some sliced banana for fruit and kale for greens and minerals. Blend, pour and go! Boom, your kid will leave the house totally fortified.

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Juicy Juice Flavor Expert, and Emmy-Nominated Celebrity Chef, Jeff Mauro was born and raised in Chicago where he was determined from an early age to become the funniest chef in the world.

He was cast in Season 7 of the hit show Food Network Star and won the competition by combining his passions for cooking with comedy, which also landed him his own series, The Sandwich King. After five successful seasons to date, he was tapped by the Food Network to also host the hit daytime show, The Kitchen, now in it’s 15th season.

Jeff is the proud partner & executive chef of Pork & Mindy’s restaurants. He still lives “in the neighborhood” with his wife Sarah and his son Lorenzo. His favorite color is Pastrami and his favorite smell is meat smoke. 

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Secrets to Successful Mealtimes from a Chef

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